Sometimes you don’t need bells and whistles to get the job done well. This Finlux set, rather short on either of them, does just that, and all for just £250.
You will have to look past the somewhat unimpressive cover to see it though – it’s not the prettiest of sets, with a chunky black bezel to match its inelegant plastic stand.
It’s light too – almost worryingly so – and its inputs are relatively limited, with only two HDMIs to choose from. Enough for humble set-ups perhaps, but it will leave more ambitious systems wanting.
Still, the beauty in this budget set is its picture performance. With enough tweaking and a healthy dose of well-measured expectations, you can get a pretty decent picture indeed.
It has a few features that you might not expect at this price too, including built-in wi-fi and Freeview Play, meaning it’s capable of a few surprises along the way.
While 4K might be the resolution of choice these days, it’s full HD that’s served up on the 40FMD294B-P.
Compared with some of the budget 4K TVs we’ve seen, it’s a much more convincing picture across the board – you won’t get 4K compatibility of course, but smaller budgets are better spent on HD sets for best results.
Setting up the TV is relatively simple – if you’re using a THX disc to adjust your picture settings though, you’ll want to briefly turn off the CEC control, which you’ll find in advanced settings.
That’s because when switched on, the included remote automatically controls any connected HDMI devices. That can be handy but it also stops you getting the TV picture settings menu that you need (bringing up a settings menu for the Blu-ray player instead).
The remote isn’t the easiest to navigate either, with some icons for key features not easily recognisable. You’ll learn with some trial and error, but it’s not the most intuitive.
When it comes to picture settings, we prefer the ‘natural’ picture mode to our usual go-to ‘cinema’ setting, and then we tweak from there.
We switch eco mode and most extra processing to off, though we do find blacks benefit from the ‘low’ option in dynamic contrast.
More after the break
We first try some HD TV channels and are pleasantly surprised at the Finlux’s capabilities. It shows off a largely natural colour palette and a decently sharp, watchable image with clean, well-etched outlines.
Bright colours are occasionally misjudged and overdone, but for the most part it manages the balance between punchy and believability with confidence, and skin tones are spot on too.
It could be accused of being a touch smooth and lacking in insight, but the missing detail isn’t so much that it looks unnatural or distracting – you’ll lose more still with a knock down to standard def channels, but the picture remains watchable without an excessive amount of noise.
Switch it up to a Blu-ray of the Jungle Book and we notice similar traits.
The orange of Shere Khan’s coat is pushed just a little too much, and the finer detail and texture to fur, faces and landscapes is somewhat overlooked, but it’s still a sharp, vibrant and enjoyable picture with no real motion issues of note.
Dark scenes can struggle – blacks go impressively deep for this level, but can miss out on some shadow detail in the gloom, with contrast leaving a little to be desired too.
It’s not unusual on a TV at this price though, and you’d have to spend over double the cost of this set to see any real improvement in this area.
There’s no smart TV system of note – it’s more a (relatively short) list of accessible apps built into the settings menu than anything else, but with shortcuts to most of them from the remote, this works just fine.
They include Netflix, YouTube and Freeview Play – the latter doubles as a TV guide for the 70 Freeview channels and an on-demand service for all of the UK’s catch up services, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5.
It’s a great inclusion for a TV at this price, particularly when some big name flagships can’t even boast the full four.
You will want to consider buying a soundbar if you go for this TV. Most flatscreen sets don’t offer much in the sound department – particularly budget ones – but this is definitely one of the Finlux’s weaker spots.
It just sounds hollow and cumbersome, lacking in detail and any sense of expression. It’s missing some weight too, and has a tendency to cause audible vibration of its casing with higher-pitched sounds, like women’s voices.
Even a budget soundbar will put paid to that, and is well worth considering.
There have been some understandable compromises, but they’ve been well handled so they’re far from glaring, ultimately creating a better-considered picture than we’d expect.
It’s not perfect by any stretch, but watch this TV with the open mind that its price tag demands and we suspect you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as we are.